When people think of Irish writers they usually think of James Joyce, Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, or Roddy Doyle. Basically, they think of the old guys but we have a lot more to offer than that.
Avoid the crowds this St. Patrick’s Day and curl up with one of these great contemporary Irish books.
Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling by Emer McLysaght, Sarah Breen
Soon to be made into a film, Oh My God, What a complete Aisling is the story of a particular type of Irish girl. “We all know an Aisling**. She’s your stereotypical friend who carries her court shoes to work in a bag while pounding the pavement with her MBTs on the walk in from Rathmines.” Aisling has stepped out from her Facebook group roots and taken the country by storm! The book has been hugely popular and it’s not hard to see why.
Aisling is twenty-eight and she’s a complete … Aisling. She lives at home in Ballygobbard (or Ballygobackwards, as some gas tickets call it) with her parents and commutes to her good job at PensionsPlus in Dublin.
Aisling goes out every Saturday night with her best friend Majella, who is a bit of a hames (she’s lost two phones already this year – Aisling has never lost a phone).
Aisling spends two nights a week at her boyfriend John’s. He’s from down home and was kiss number seventeen at her twenty-first.
But Aisling wants more. She wants the ring on her finger. She wants the hen with the willy straws. She wants out of her parents’ house, although she’d miss Mammy turning on the electric blanket like clockwork and Daddy taking her car ‘out for a spin’ and bringing it back full of petrol.
When a week in Tenerife with John doesn’t end with the expected engagement, Aisling calls a halt to things and soon she has surprised herself and everyone else by agreeing to move into a three-bed in Portobello with stylish Sadhbh from HR and her friend, the mysterious Elaine.
Newly single and relocated to the big city, life is about to change utterly for this wonderful, strong, surprising and funny girl, who just happens to be a complete Aisling.
Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen, the creators of the much-loved Aisling character and the popular Facebook page ‘Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling’, bring Aisling to life in their novel about the quintessential country girl in the big smoke.
Almost Love by Louise O’Neill
Louise O’Neill’s first two books have been wildly popular especially Asking For It which is currently being adapted for a stage production in Cork’s The Everyman Theatre. Almost Love is her first adult fiction release and if it’s anything like Asking For It it will crawl under your skin and take up residence.
If it doesn’t hurt, it’s not love: the gripping new novel from the bestselling author of Asking for It. Perfect for fans of Marian Keyes and Jodi Picoult.
When Sarah falls for Matthew, she falls hard.
So it doesn’t matter that he’s twenty years older. That he sees her only in secret. That, slowly but surely, she’s sacrificing everything else in her life to be with him.
Sarah’s friends are worried. Her father can’t understand how she could allow herself to be used like this. And she’s on the verge of losing her job.
But Sarah can’t help it. She is addicted to being desired by Matthew.
And love is supposed to hurt.
The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney
McInerney won the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2016 for this darkly comic book set in Cork city’s criminal underbelly. You know you want to read something described by the Irish Times as “a big, brassy, sexy beast of a book“.
‘He was definitely dead, whoever he was. He wore a once-black jumper and a pair of shiny tracksuit bottoms. The back of his head was cracked and his hair matted, but it had been foxy before that. A tall man, a skinny rake, another string of piss, now departed. She hadn’t gotten a look at his face before she flaked him with the Holy Stone and she couldn’t bring herself to turn him over.’
One messy murder affects the lives of five misfits who exist on the fringes of Ireland’s post-crash society. Ryan is a fifteen-year-old drug dealer desperate not to turn out like his alcoholic father Tony, whose obsession with his unhinged next-door neighbour threatens to ruin him and his family. Georgie is a prostitute whose willingness to feign a religious conversion has dangerous repercussions, while Maureen, the accidental murderer, has returned to Cork after forty years in exile to discover that Jimmy, the son she was forced to give up years before, has grown into the most fearsome gangster in the city. In seeking atonement for the murder and a multitude of other perceived sins, Maureen threatens to destroy everything her son has worked so hard for, while her actions risk bringing the intertwined lives of the Irish underworld into the spotlight…
Biting, moving and darkly funny, The Glorious Heresies explores salvation, shame and the legacy of Ireland’s twentieth-century attitudes to sex and family.
Holding by Graham Norton
The debut novel from one of Ireland’s most loved exports. Norton makes us laugh most Friday nights on his BBC chat show but now he sets his sights on criminal mystery in the Irish countryside.
Graham Norton’s masterful debut is an intelligently crafted story of love, secrets and loss.
The remote Irish village of Duneen has known little drama; and yet its inhabitants are troubled. Sergeant PJ Collins hasn’t always been this overweight; mother of two Brid Riordan hasn’t always been an alcoholic; and elegant Evelyn Ross hasn’t always felt that her life was a total waste.
So when human remains are discovered on an old farm, suspected to be that of Tommy Burke – a former love of both Brid and Evelyn – the village’s dark past begins to unravel. As the frustrated PJ struggles to solve a genuine case for the first time in his life, he unearths a community’s worth of anger and resentments, secrets and regret.
Darkly comic, touching and at times profoundly sad. Graham Norton employs his acerbic wit to breathe life into a host of loveable characters, and explore – with searing honesty – the complexities and contradictions that make us human.
The Break by Marian Keyes
Keyes has the amazing ability to write witty fun books around serious topics such as addiction, depression, and the loss of a loved one without making light of the topic. She approaches them with such a humane eye making it seem like even though this shitty thing has/is happening everything will be alright.
Amy’s husband Hugh has run away to ‘find himself’. But will he ever come back? ‘Myself and Hugh . . . We’re taking a break.’ ‘A city-with-fancy-food sort of break?’ If only. Amy’s husband Hugh says he isn’t leaving her. He still loves her, he’s just taking a break – from their marriage, their children and, most of all, from their life together. Six months to lose himself in South East Asia. And there is nothing Amy can say or do about it. Yes, it’s a mid-life crisis, but let’s be clear: a break isn’t a break up – yet . . . However, for Amy it’s enough to send her – along with her extended family of gossips, misfits and troublemakers – teetering over the edge. For a lot can happen in six-months. When Hugh returns, if he returns, will he be the same man she married? Will Amy be the same woman? Because if Hugh is on a break from their marriage, then so is she . . . The Break is a story about the choices we make and how those choices help to make us. It is Marian Keyes at her funniest, wisest and brilliant best. ‘Just brilliant’ Sunday Times ‘Girl-power at its best. I laughed . . . I cried’ Daily Mail ‘Another belter. Full of brilliantly fun characters, genuine emotion and heaps of charm. We loved it!’ Heat ‘Keyes writes extremely well about modern women. A breezy, candid and deeply felt account of a wife, mother and career woman rediscovering herself’ Metro ‘Fabulously entertaining. Classic Keyes. The queen of intelligent women’s fiction’ Sunday Mirror ‘A glorious life-affirming novel with Keyes on top form’ Woman & Home ‘When it comes to writing page-turners that put a smile on your face and make you think, Keyes is in a class of her own’ Daily Express.
The Secret Scripture by Sebastion Barry
This was adapted into a movie recently. Don’t watch it. Read the book. It’s written with such real emotion there’s a good chance you will forget you’re reading fiction. And, yes, ok, this is really historical fiction but it’s written by a contemporary author so I’m including it.
Nearing her one-hundredth birthday, Roseanne McNulty faces an uncertain future, as the Roscommon Regional Mental hospital where she’s spent the best part of her adult life prepares for closure. Over the weeks leading up to this upheaval, she talks often with her psychiatrist Dr Grene, and their relationship intensifies and complicates.
Told through their respective journals, the story that emerges is at once shocking and deeply beautiful. Refracted through the haze of memory and retelling, Roseanne’s story becomes an alternative, secret history of Ireland’s changing character and the story of a life blighted by terrible mistreatment and ignorance, and yet marked still by love and passion and hope.
Of course, this list could go on and on. What contemporary Irish literature would you add?
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